Trump and DeSantis Are Competing to Show Who Hates Immigrants the Most

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis hold a Covid-19 and storm preparedness roundtable on July 31, 2020. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.After signing one of the most draconian anti-immigrant laws in the country last month, 2024 presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has turned his attention back to the US-Mexico border. Over the weekend, DeSantis joined Fox News’ Bill Melugin for a boat tour and helicopter ride over the Rio Grande in Texas for a bird’s eye view of migrants crossing. His campaign has also released a video attacking the Biden administration and calling the situation at the border a “complete disaster,” as “dangerous criminals” and “deadly drugs” flow in, seemingly unchecked. Finally, in a campaign stop in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Monday, DeSantis unveiled his first official policy platform as a candidate—a sweeping round-up of measures designed to crack down on immigration and demonstrate that, unlike President Donald Trump, he means business.
“For decades, leaders from both parties have produced empty promises on border security, and now it is time to act to stop the invasion once and for all,” he said in a release about the announcement. “As president, I will declare a national emergency on Day One and will not rest until we build the wall, shut down illegal entry, and win the war against the drug cartels.” The Florida governor, who has demonstrated no qualms about using taxpayer money to move vulnerable migrants from Texas to Florida only to transport them to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses, vowed to target sanctuary jurisdictions, deputize state and local governments to enforce immigration law—despite the Supreme Court’s decision last week reaffirming the federal branch’s authority over the matter—and conduct mass deportations. (In May, DeSantis authorized the deployment of 1,100 Florida National Guard members and other law enforcement to the Texas border.) His proposal also includes labeling Mexican drug cartels “transnational criminal organizations,” and notes that “DeSantis will reserve the right to operate across the border to secure our territory from Mexican cartel activities.”
After a relatively strong start, DeSantis’ poll numbers have lagged, placing him far behind Donald Trump. In response, it appears that the Florida governor has decided to sell himself as a more efficient version of the former president. When he spoke on Monday, a “No Excuses” background served as a not-so-subtle dig at his main rival and Trump’s record as the “Build that Wall” commander-in-chief. Indeed, it seems as if DeSantis and Trump have been vying for the position of 2024 GOP candidate who hates immigrants the most. “I will finally be the president to bring the issue of our open southern border to a conclusion,” DeSantis said to a crowd of Evangelical Christians at the Faith & Freedom Coalition annual conference on Friday. The next day, when it was Trump’s turn to energize that same audience, he claimed despite evidence of the contrary. “We had the most successful and strongest border in American history.”
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) June 5, 2023

Not to be outdone, the former president has promised to bring back the now obsolete pandemic public health restrictions of Title 42 and “Remain in Mexico” policies, third-country agreements outsourcing border enforcement to other nations, and “asylum bans,” in addition to expanding the border wall. His official campaign Twitter account also mentions plans of carrying out “the largest domestic deportation operation in American History” and imposing a “full naval embargo on the drug cartels.” Unsurprisingly, Trump has earned the endorsement of Stephen Miller, his former senior adviser on immigration and the architect behind some of the Trump administration’s most harmful policies, including family separation. Miller is now leading America First Legal, a conservative group that has repeatedly sued the Biden administration repeatedly over immigration policy. 
In defiance of the Constitution, both Trump and DeSantis have pledged to end the guarantee of birthright citizenship for the US-born children of undocumented immigrants. In response to DeSantis’ plans, the Trump campaign accused the governor of “copying and pasting President Trump’s Agenda47 policy plan because he doesn’t have an original idea of his own.” In a tweet juxtaposing a photo of Trump inspecting the border wall alongside a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent and another from a gubernatorial campaign video where DeSantis and his toddler daughter play with building blocks, Jason Miller, Trump’s senior adviser and former CEO of Gettr, wrote that “Ron DeSantis is the Fisher Price version of President Trump.” On Truth Social, Trump complained that Fox News covered DeSantis’s “very boring news conference” and said the “DeSanctus speech was just a rehash of all the things I did.” 

Ron DeSantis is the Fisher Price version of President Trump.
Spot the difference?
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) June 26, 2023